191-Psalm 37 – Wait.
As I was prayerfully considering what to write today, I remembered a conversation in which a man was telling me he never reads a book twice. He stated, “I read the Bible cover to cover once, why would I ever read it again?” Though I didn’t become a believer until I was nineteen years old, I’ve been reading the Bible most of my life. For the past eight years or so I’ve been learning how to study the Bible from my wonderful Pastors. The more I read and study the Bible the less my friend’s question makes sense to me. I wonder how anyone could read the Bible one time through, cover to cover, and not be drawn into its story. How could anyone encounter any part of the word of God and not want to understand it better and to discover more of its meaning?
Psalm 37 has forty verses. I’ve been reading, listening to, meditating upon, and studying this very practical piece of Hebrew poetry over and over for weeks, and yet I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of all that could be mined from its depths.
I know I haven’t gone verse by verse through this magnificent, ancient writing. I’ve tried to share highlights of my encounters with this portion of YHWH’s Holy Word.
Today I’d like to focus on one word, wait. It shows up three times in this Psalm.
7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
9 For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.
34 Wait on the LORD,
And keep His way,
And He shall exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.
Consulting a Hebrew Lexicon we discover that the English words “wait patiently” are what the NKJV translators chose to represent the Hebrew word הִתְח֪וֹלֵ֫ל – hitholel. The range of possible meanings might surprise you. According to Logos Bible Software, It’s from the Hebrew verb חיל – hyl which means be in labor; writhe, tremble; bring forth (through labor)! What?? How does that translate to “wait patiently”, you may ask? Maybe it doesn’t make sense at first, but if you ponder it in context I think it begins to fit.
How does a woman in labor wait for the baby within her to arrive? She does so expectantly, of course. “Wait” seems to be a passive verb. I mean “to wait” means I can’t precipitate the arrival of the thing waited for, I must simply allow it to arrive when it does, right? But here it seems the translators attempted to communicate we are to actively wait or anticipate YHWH and His actions as a pregnant woman actively waits for her baby. It may seem counter-intuitive but I wonder if that phrase could be rendered “Rest in the LORD, and wait actively for Him”?
The word “wait” in verses 9 and 34 is the word קָוָה – qwh, which the Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures renders to twist, to bind; to be strong; to expect, to await; to expect; to lie in wait for anyone, etc.
I hope we didn’t lose our ball in the weeds by spending too much time on the details. However, I think it is important to note when we wait on YHWH (the LORD), we are to do so energetically, expectantly, actively but certainly not dismissively.
I sometimes think the modern-day believer’s concept of waiting on the Lord is that God is late – we wish He was more punctual. We have to sort of just be patient and wait until He finally decides to get up off the couch and do something. Wow! I wish He was under the same sense of urgency I am under, but no I have to wait!
If that’s what we think is what it means to “wait on the LORD”, we are misunderstanding the scripture’s intended meaning. If you look at Psalm 37:7 in the context of verses 1 through 6, I think you’ll discover that waiting on YHWH is in contrast to fretting (burning in anger) because of evildoers. The man who is waiting on the Lord has made a conscious decision to do so.
Consider Psalm 40:1-2.
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
2 He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
Now think about Joseph. He could have cursed his brothers while seething down in that pit. He could have complained all the way through his miserable existence as a slave stolen from his father’s home. No, he chose to wait, patiently, expectantly on God, and reaped the benefits of that decision. Was it easy? I’m guessing not. I’ll bet he had to be active in his waiting. I’m sure he was tempted to doubt and complain – and yet he actively waited on YHWH the promise-keeping God.
Here’s another verse to consider.
5 My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
There are so many other wonderful passages scattered all throughout the scriptures encouraging God’s people to wait on Him. Do you think this concept has relevance today? Can you think of a situation occurring today where this could be applied?
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.